Welcome to the latest installment of Q&A, our regular series of one-to-ones with some of Greater Vancouver's leading business figures.
Our subject this week is Jean-Philippe Menard, Senior Vice President British Columbia, North and Client Diversity at BDC. In our wide-ranging discussion, we spoke to Jean-Philippe about his first job at a gas station, the biggest challenge of his career and what he believes makes Vancouver such a dynamic place to live and work.
What inspires you?
Business owners. I am constantly inspired by their capacity to create and innovate, by their ability to bounce back and be resilient. It has been almost 25 years that I have been working at BDC - 25 years that I've been working with entrepreneurs. Hundreds, maybe thousands of business owners. I think entrepreneurs are some of the most fascinating people out there – it takes so much courage, work, and resiliency to keep going especially through tough times, like we are going through right now.
How do you relax?
Since I was 18, I have been a minor hockey referee. It connects me to the present moment and helps me relax. In normal time, I would do around 8 matches a month and I really enjoy it. I also read a lot: business, economy, politics. I mostly enjoy reading biographies and watching documentaries.
What was your first job?
I was a gas station attendant in my dad's business. Because I was the son of the owner, my dad wanted to show me what hard work meant. I didn't get a raise in three years and he always gave me the worst shifts – Saturday nights and Sunday mornings, so it made it very difficult for me to go out with my friends! It was a very useful and formative experience.
What's your most prized possession and why?
My family, especially in the current context. We moved from Montreal to Vancouver during the summer of 2020 - in the middle of the pandemic. My wife integrated into a new role very quickly. We have two athletes in the family: my son plays basketball and my daughter is a skier. Both managed to integrate their new teams in a very short period. Seeing them adapt and being so resilient is an inspiration and a constant motivation for me.
What keeps you awake at night?
The increasing pace of change and our ability to adapt and evolve.
The pandemic has brought a new set of challenges that we have to deal with. Canadian entrepreneurs need to adopt new technologies, they need to improve their productivity and strengthen their global footprint. I am constantly asking myself how my team at BDC – Canada's bank for entrepreneurs – better support business owners through all this uncertainty and complexity.
What is the biggest challenge you've faced in your career?
I'm living it right now! After almost 25 years with BDC in Montreal, Quebec, I just relocated with my family to the "best" coast this summer, in the mid of the pandemic. Integrating a new team and building trust, while continuing to improve our support for entrepreneurs is a great challenge.
What is the biggest challenge facing Greater Vancouver?
Our ability to rebound from the pandemic and restart the most impacted parts of our economy (tourism, hospitality etc.).I believe that the pre-pandemic labor shortage is still present, and it will become even more important once the pandemic will be over.
What do you like most about doing business in Greater Vancouver?
The economy is so dynamic and diverse, and Vancouver is such an important tech hub. All this combined with the fact that work life balance is engrained in Vancouver's culture contribute positively to attracting talent from all over Canada and the world.
Where do you see untapped potential in Greater Vancouver?
For BDC, one of our biggest opportunity is to significantly increase our collaboration with different partners in the marketplace. When the members of an ecosystem work closely together, this has a hugely positive impact on entrepreneurs and the level of support they are getting. At BDC, we want to be at the heart of the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Vancouver and bring different stakeholders together for the benefit of business owners in the region.
What is the most important lesson, business or otherwise, life has taught you?
You need to listen and trust people. It is incredible how much people can give and achieve when they feel trusted and empowered. The sky is the limit when you have engaged teams.
What do you think Greater Vancouver needs more of?
Vancouver is a city with incredibly creative minds, we need to continue building on this strength to attract more talent and develop strong local companies that can scale up and become global champions. As a society, I believe we need more affordability, especially for young families. We also need more social justice and empathy for each other's challenges and realities.
What do you think Greater Vancouver needs less of?
Vancouver is constantly recognized as one of the best cities to live in around the world. There is not much I would change! However, speculation in some specific segments of the real estate market had a negative impact on Vancouver's affordability. This is something to balance and adjust.
What might (someone) be surprised to know about you?
I have a deal with my wife. When I am at home, I am the one cooking and doing the laundry. It was easy before the pandemic, I had a busy schedule. I never thought that I was going to be at home for 11 straight months (and still counting!) otherwise I wouldn't have signed up on this!
If you could leave one professional legacy behind, what would it be?
To have built and inspired a diverse team engaged to promote, serve, and grow Canadian businesses here and abroad for the good of our country.